Christmas and over indulgence, it’s almost a given that at this time of the year we'll eat more than our fair share of sugary, rich and heavy foods....and then go back for more! And although many look forward to it all year, those few moments of gratification can have some unpleasant consequences. I thought it no better time than now to offer a few pointers to help you avoid some of the more unfortunate but common causalities of too much Christmas cheer....
Bloating and Digestive Discomfort
Many favourite Christmas desserts are laden with cream, custard and other dairy products which can spell trouble for those who may be lactose intolerant. If you find yourself feeling bloated, experiencing stomach cramps and excess wind, or suddenly needing to run to the nearest bathroom after your bowl of cream laden dessert then you too may be lactose intolerant.
1. Limit your dairy intake - Really the only way to avoid these uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms is to limit the amount of dairy based desserts you choose to eat in one sitting. Even though that cream laden pavlova may be calling your name, opting to pass on that second helping is a good idea.
2. Try making a dairy free dessert - There are many delicious dairy free dessert recipes available to try so why not impress your friends and family and bring your own? It is highly likely you won't be the only one looking for a dairy free option at the dessert table.
3. Invest in a good quality digestive enzyme supplement - Enzyme supplements can replace enzymes that you may be lacking in order to digest your food well. Taking an enzyme supplement aids in the digestive process and may help reduce bloating and discomfort after a heavy meal.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar- a tried and true digestive aid. Try taking 1 tsp in a small amount of water before your main meal to help stimulate your digestion and reduce uncomfortable bloating.
With all the ham, beer, rich sweet desserts and shellfish on offer it is no wonder that Christmas time can see a flare up of gout. Gout most commonly affects the joint of the big toe (although other joints can be affected). It occurs due to a build-up of uric acid levels in the blood which lead to the swelling, redness and the ‘exquisite’ pain so characteristic of gout. Pork, shellfish and beer are particularly high in the amino acid purine which increases uric acid levels in the blood. Combine this with a higher than normal sugar intake and less water intake and you have a recipe for disaster (of the gouty type oh no)..
1. Water - You can start by increasing your water intake ensuring you are flushing as much uric acid out through the kidneys as possible. Aim for at least 8 glasses a day and more in hot weather. Avoid too much coffee and black tea as this is a diuretic and can contribute to dehydration.
2. Limit your alcohol intake - aim to have as many alcohol free days as possible over the Christmas period. Try alcohol free cocktails if you feel like something fancy or stick to mineral water with fresh lemon and lime.
3. Eat cherries - eating approximately 250g of cherries a day (can be fresh or frozen) may help you avoid an attack of gout. Cherries contain anti-inflammatory compounds known as anthocyanidins which decrease uric acid levels and also help protect the joint from the damaging effects of inflammation.
4. Include fresh celery in the diet - either as a snack with hummus, added to fresh juice or as an addition to a salad. Celery is a natural diuretic and aids in removing excess uric acid via the kidneys while also acting as a natural anti-inflammatory.
It can be difficult to avoid overeating with so much food on offer over the Christmas period however it doesn’t have to turn into a month of uncontrolled binge eating. Continued overeating can undo a lot of hard work undertaken over the year and cause havoc with blood sugar levels.
1. Avoid turning up to a party hungry - you will most certainly start by filling yourself up on sugary treats and high fat nibbles and will be more likely to gorge on dessert.
2. Make yourself a protein smoothie - Protein shakes and smoothies with added fibre like chia and flaxseeds are a great option to have beforehand as they are filling and help curb sugar cravings.
3. Watch portion sizes - Be mindful of your portion sizes and avoid going for seconds just because it’s there in front of you.
4. Keep things in balance - If you do have a day of overindulgence eat lightly the next day and allow your body to deal with the onslaught of the previous day’s eating. Make yourself a green smoothie for breakfast and stick to meals based around healthy salads and/or vegetables with the addition of palmed sized portions of healthy lean protein.
5. Walk it off - Make a point of getting out for some daily exercise even while on holiday. Not only will you will feel so much better for it but getting those muscles working will help burn off extra energy and help manage fluctuating blood sugar levels.
With all the fun and celebratory drinks comes the downside of a few too many… waking up the next morning with a hangover is the pits, especially when you have small children begging for your attention. Obviously the best way to avoid a hangover is to not drink as much or at all, however despite the best intentions there are always those times when it creeps up on us.
1. There's no magic cure - only time...again avoid arriving at a party with an empty stomach as alcohol is absorbed directly through the stomach and before you know it you’ve downed a few drinks and the damage is already done.
2. Remain hydrated - Try to alternate your drinks with a glass of water, this will ensure you remain hydrated and will also slow you down, both of which are guaranteed to help you feel better the next morning.
3. Make a juice - Making (or buying) yourself a fresh juice is a great way to hydrate and replace lost nutrients lost during a heavy night drinking. Try combinations with carrot, ginger, celery, spinach or kale and beetroot. This will provide your body with easily digestible nutrients including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Fresh vegetable juices are alkalising and cleansing. Beetroot supports healthy liver function and ginger helping with nausea.
5. Take Milk Thistle - Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) is a safe and clinically trialed herb for protecting the liver against the damaging effects of alcohol and can reduce the toxic effects of alcohol on the body. Try taking Milk Thistle as a supplement or drink as a tea over the Christmas period and beyond especially if you are heavy drinker.
Well I hope you manage to navigate your way through the silly season successfully using some of the tips I have mentioned and enjoy a relaxing and rejuvenating break over the summer holidays...
Happy Christmas everyone and until next year......